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Identifier: RG 33/C0/01

Rutgers College War Service Bureau Records


  • 1917-1919

<emph render="bold">Scope and Content Note</emph>

The records of the Rutgers College War Service Bureau were created and maintained by Earl Reed Silvers, director of the bureau from its establishment in September 1917 until its end in June 1919. The records reflect the Bureau's mission of "keeping Rutgers men in touch with the college and with one another," as well as Silvers' efforts to document the activities and impressions of Rutgers men involved in military service and other war-related activity.

The bureau's Personal Correspondence Files contain letters and postcards from Rutgers students and alumni and carbon copies of Silvers' replies to them. In 1917, Silvers sent form letters to the last known address of all Rutgers alumni to advise them of the Bureau's existence and to request information on their military or war-related activities. He maintained contact with those who responded, exchanged information on other Rutgers men who were in the same military unit or camp, and kept them informed of events at the college through a series of newsletters and personal letters. Silvers, an alumnus from the Rutgers Class of 1913, was well acquainted with many of these men and actively sought both news of their activities and their personal impressions of various aspects of Army, Navy, and YMCA service. He also obtained copies of many letters sent by servicemen to their relatives and to Rutgers faculty members.

Since the bureau served as a clearing house for information of military recruitment programs, much of the personal correspondence deals with eligibility requirements and application procedures for officer training camps and for specialized branches of the service, notably those requiring expertise or interest in aviation, engineering, sanitation, and agriculture.

The War History Files consists of a brief history by Silvers of the War Service Bureau, copies of the thirty-six newsletters that he sent to alumni in the armed forces, and Silvers' manuscript draft, originally intended for publication, entitled "The Story of the College During the War." In this manuscript Silver explores the war's impact on Rutgers College as well as chronicling other events, such as the influenza epidemic and the founding of the New Jersey College for Women, both which occurred in 1918.

Silvers selected those letters from servicemen whom he considered most interesting or typical and he had them transcribed, evidently with the intent of publishing them. These make up the "Selected Letters from Rutgers Men in Service" file that describes a wide variety of experiences and impressions, mostly of men in training camps or with the American Expeditionary Force in France. The originals of most of these letters are in the Personal Correspondence Series.

Following the armistice, Silvers sent forms to all alumni he could reach to solicit summaries of their war service, which were then organized and transcribed as the "War Briefs of Rutgers Alumni." Information in an individual's "war record" typically included rank; branch and sub-branch of service; dates of service; dates, location, and type of military training; dates, units, and locations where assigned; promotions; battles or campaigns in which one participated; and commendations or decorations received. This is represented in subseries A.

The War History Files also documents the memorial service held at Rutgers for alumni who were killed during the war. This file consists of obituaries for 19 men, along with a sonnet written in their memory. Of particular interest is the obituary of Joyce Kilmer that details the circumstances of his death.

In addition, the war history files contains subseries B to E, which contain information about all Rutgers servicemen. These are the forms that Silvers sent out during the war to gather information and create the War Briffs in subseries A. Subseries B and C, war records and war report cards respectively, contain the personal narratives of each man's account of the war, written in their own hand. The index cards of subseries D collect the information soldiers sent in, and subseries E represents the wide array of locations that Rutgers men served in during the war.

The Subject Files of the bureau include correspondence with the Intercollegiate Intelligence Bureau and the War Department that largely concerns officer training camps and special calls for men with particular specialization or academic background. The "War Service Reunion Dinner" file contains a statistical summary of the wartime service of Rutgers alumni, including rank, branches of service, number wounded, and deaths. This series also includes copies of application forms and lists of Rutgers students and alumni by specialization, as well as miscellaneous institutional correspondence.


5.5 Cubic Feet (14 manuscript boxes, 3 card boxes)

Language of Materials



The Rutgers College War Service Bureau was founded with the intention of keeping the Rutgers students, alumni, and staff in touch with one another as they served in World War I. The records contain letters from members of the Rutgers community regarding their activities during the war on the home front and abroad. It also contains bulletins from Earl Reed Silvers, the director of the War Service Bureau, about activities at Rutgers during the war.

<emph render="bold">Administrative History</emph>

The War Service Bureau of Rutgers College, established August 20, 1917, was implemented to keep Rutgers students in contact with the college as well as with each other during World War I. Earl Reed Silvers, assistant to President William Henry Steele Demarest, served as director of the bureau from its inception until June 1919.

The War Service Bureau fulfilled a number of tasks, such as corresponding with soldiers and collecting wartime photographs and other ephemera. Silvers sent letters to Rutgers alumni serving in the armed forces at intervals ranging from one week to one month. Along with personal communications, he also sent issues of Rutgers Alumni Quarterly. In many of the letters Silvers solicited responses from the men about their experiences. Soldiers and military personnel serving overseas also received bulletins that notified eligible alumni of government job openings. After January 1918, the War Department assumed this responsibility.

The bureau also compiled and maintained records of alumni serving in the armed forces and engaged in government service during the war. In addition to retaining correspondence and records, the bureau also sought out photographs and war relics as souvenirs of the conflict.

With the signing of the Armistice in November 1918, the tasks of the War Service Bureau were greatly reduced though letters continued to be sent until June 1919. By the end of the bureau's existence, over four thousand letters were received and answered during the period of April 1917 to June 1919.

<emph render="bold">Arrangement Note</emph>

The records of the War Service Bureau are organized into three series:

  1. I. Personal Correspondence, 1917-1919
  2. II. War History Files, 1917-1919
  3. III. Subject Files, 1917-1919


The digitization of these records was assisted by a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.

<emph render="bold">Processing Note</emph>

The digitization of these records was assisted by a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State, in 2017.

Inventory to the Records of the Rutgers College War Service Bureau RG 33/C0/01
Edited Full Draft
Mark Anderson, Suzanne Blecker, Mary Ladany, Elizabeth Leister, and Meghan Rinn
May 1992
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.
Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.

Part of the Rutgers University Archives Repository

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